The wife of an American pastor jailed in Iran said God is using her husband's imprisonment "for such a time as this."
Naghmeh Abedini never thought she would have to face persecution for her faith again.
She and her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, were subject to it when they were Christians living in Iran. Now, though, they are American citizens who live in Idaho with their two young children.
But when Saeed traveled to Iran last year to help build an orphanage in his homeland, he was arrested and taken to Evin Prison, where he remains over a year later.
The family has faced difficult times. Naghmeh misses her husband. The children miss their father. They have been praying for his release, and asking Christians in the United States and around the world to do the same.
But during Saeed’s imprisonment, Naghmeh has grown stronger in her commitment to Christ.
Naghmeh visited the Samaritan’s Purse international headquarters in North Carolina on Friday to talk about her husband, about the need for prayer—and about how God has used the persecution to advance the cause of Christ.
She said she often looks back to the first time they were arrested as a reminder of how God can turn evil to good.
Shortly after they met, Naghmeh and Saeed were ministering in Iran when they were taken at gunpoint, detained, and interrogated multiple times. As the situation worsened, the guard told Naghmeh that she could go home if she said she was a Muslim. However, if she claimed to be a Christian, she would be sentenced to prison, tortured, and killed.
“For a few seconds, I was tempted,” she recalled. Then she heard the Lord say, “Don’t deny me, and I will protect you.”
God gave Naghmeh the grace and strength she needed in that moment to maintain her faith. The guard grew angrier and accused her of being brainwashed. Then he took Saeed out to the courtyard as Naghmeh watched through a window.
“I was praying. Knowing Saeed – that he came from a radical background like the guard – I knew he was sharing Christ with him.”
Finally, the two came back inside. The guard took their file, tore it up, and told them to go. As they were leaving, he whispered, “Can I have a Bible?”
“God had us in that interrogation room for that particular man,” Naghmeh said. “If we had denied our faith, he never would have come to know Jesus.”
Remembering God’s faithfulness that day has helped Naghmeh during Saeed’s current imprisonment.
“When I stand up for my faith, He uses it.”
Naghmeh and Saeed exemplify surrender to Christ. From the time they came to salvation, God placed a desire in each of their hearts to proclaim the Gospel to the nation of Iran. Even their wedding in Tehran became an evangelical outreach with 600 people, including many Muslims, who received The Jesus Film and Bibles as wedding favors.
Confident of their calling, Naghmeh draws her strength from God.
“I’ve asked God, ‘Why now?’ and He said, ‘For such a time as this.’”
And in a situation meant for evil, God is reaching millions of people with the message of His Son, including 30 of Saeed’s fellow prisoners who have accepted Christ. In fact, the longer Saeed has stayed in prison, the more people have had the chance to hear the Gospel.
Naghmeh has had the opportunity to speak about Saeed’s imprisonment and his faith in Christ at the United Nations, on multiple national news channels, and on Iranian television – which was broadcast live to 50 million viewers.
“There are people God wants to reach – even through this,” she said.
September 26 marked one year since Pastor Saeed was imprisoned. Through beatings, torture, and pressure to deny his faith, he continues to be a witness for Christ.
Naghmeh asks for prayers for her husband’s continued strength, his health, and his release. She also asks for prayers that God would use their lives to bring Muslims to Christ, pointing to Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
“That’s where our heart is,” she said. “Pray that we would go into the darkness and share Christ.”